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“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I am not a fan of dragons, so I have not tried Novik’s more popular Temeraire series (also to be filmed soon by Peter Jackson of LoTR fame). A decision I need to change, obviously, if the series is anything like Uprooted. Because this book. This. Book. It is written like a fairytale, it has a juicy mystery that keeps you on tenterhooks, it speaks of relationships that are realistic and beautiful, and it has cover art which is glorious. What's not to love?
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lexlingua: (Books)
We are all completely beside ourselves. With rage. With grief. With helplessness. That’s what the narrator of the book, Rosemary Cooke, tells us, how seemingly innocuous little decisions and innocent accidents can snowball into something disastrous. Rosemary is the daughter of a psychologist – and that in itself, is a major plot giveaway, because when you see a psychologist in the midst of the first few pages, you know something’s going to go very wrong.

Something’s gone wrong in Rosemary’s life – she used to be a bubbling chatterbox as a kid, but now she’s a quiet girl, looking for ways to become invisible. Her sister’s missing, her brother’s run off and joined an activist group, and her parents won’t talk about either of them. The first half of the book is a glimpse into Rosemary’s character, and a witty but sad thing is that glimpse. The second part— now that’s the part that throws everything for a toss.

Stop here, if you are afraid of spoilers.
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lexlingua: (WHAT!?)

This show. THIS SHOW. I can't even *gasp*.

I am not a fan girl given to squeeing, but the television drama, Liar Game, has reduced me to squeeing. A masterpiece of brilliant puzzle-solving, an insightful foray into human psychology, superb acting, and feet-on-toes edge-of-chair mystery -- I am simply amazed by this show.

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lexlingua: (typing...)
Name: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword
Author: Ann Leckie
Publisher: Orbit Books
Cover Art: John Harris
Awards: Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction Association, Arthur C. Clarke, Locus
Audio: Recorded Books (Book 1); Hachette Audio UK (Book 2)

Ancillary Justice exploded in the SFF sphere last year and won almost every award the genre has to offer, with good reason. It’s no easy feat, world-building on this level, with a character of this level of integrity and grit, and a thrilling, convoluted, galvanising plotline to boot. Think Star Wars, combine it with Inception and Artificial Intelligence, and you will still fall short of Ancillary Justice. I can give the book(s) no higher praise. After Cordelia's Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold, Ancillary Justice is definitely my favourite SciFi book.

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From what I last heard, there are plans of turning these books into TV shows. Can’t wait.
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'Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.'
(Matthew Ten, Verse Twenty-Nine)

I find this book extremely difficult to describe, more difficult than it was to read it. The Sparrow raises some uncomfortable questions about our perception of and our (according to the book, unfounded) expectations from God. Mary Russell does a spectacular job of blending science and religion in this book, and for both agnostics and believers alike, this is a story that will send you reeling.

The Sparrow is based in the future, and revolves around Emilio Sandoz, a devout Jesuit priest and a good man whose friends love him, and the strength of whose devotion to and belief in God inspires everyone around him equally. Sandoz’s biggest virtue is that he is not without flaw and that he recognizes this, but it is also true that he has the faith which can move mountains. And boy, is his faith tested.

Emilio and a few of his closest friends are sent to a planet four light years away from earth, a planet called Rakhat, as part of a top-secret space mission in the search for extraterrestrial life. The bond among these seven travelers is a beauty to behold: they are like a close-knitted family, and I especially loved the wit of Anne Edwards, the fellow medic among them. I did find it odd that this motley group went off without space protection suits, vaccinations, defence weapons, alternative fuel supply, etc. to Rakhavat; how did they become so optimistic about meeting aliens of whom they knew nothing? Ah, but maybe Emilio’s faith inspired them to take a giant leap of optimism – anyway, this is a minor point, and our group does reach Rakhat safely and succeeds in making “first contact” with the aliens there. Russell paints the alien life well: she makes it seem alien and eerily beautiful at the same time, and it’s our Earth group which is outlandish there.

In the seventeen earth years (please apply theory of relativity here) that follow, something goes horribly wrong with that space mission. Only Emilio survives from the original group, and when he finally returns to earth, he is a broken, bitter and sickened man facing accusations of prostitution and infanticide – grave crimes for a Jesuit. The media is out for his blood even as he convalesces in a Jesuit home, and the Jesuits themselves want him to “confess” and tell all. Emilio himself has lost the love for God that he was once characterized by. This is what Emilio says:
Read what happened... )
lexlingua: (Divinity)
This is the sequel to one of my top 10 SFF books, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I have no idea why I delayed reading it for so long. May be I wanted to save it for some rainy day, and indeed, it brought me out of my recent SFF jadedness with a wham! It helps if you have read its prequel, because in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the stage gets set for – spoilers ahoy! – the murder of goddess Enefa by one of the other two gods, Bright Itempas. Itempas is the god of the light and order, but as punishment for his heinous mad deed, he is banished from the god world, stripped of his powers, and is cursed to live among the mortals (whom he so disdains) for the rest of, well, for some undefined time till he learns his lesson. This second book in the trilogy thus gives us a deeper look into the world where the power basis of religion has been shifted, i.e. into the “broken kingdom”.

Itempas learns his lessons – unintentionally, of course-- by the hands of a blind mortal woman, Oree Shoth, who takes him, in his suicidal, sorry state, without knowing that he is, was, a god. I find Oree to be one of the most fascinating characters I have ever read. She is accessible to her reader, in the sense that she is a brilliant mix of logic and emotion (very different when juxtaposed with the arrogant god she has sheltered), and though she thinks herself powerless, she is the pivotal point in the struggle born of old hatred. Itempas was never a kind, benevolent god, and was never a likeable character, but the course of redemption in the book was something quite marvellous. He gets “humanized” and yet gets glorified in the book in a way that makes me speechless with wonder.

The book seemed to be a lot about genocide and the inevitable repercussions of thoughtless racial murder. It also seemed, to me, to revolve around the curious relationship between gods and their worshippers, how a god’s powers are dependent on his/her worshippers’ devotion. Without faith, a god too becomes powerless to act. For that is Itempas’ fate. There are godlings (children of the gods) being murdered all over, to investigate which incidents the aristocratic, autocratic priests come down, and in which madfare, Oree Shoth gets embroiled. Itempas is obliged to protect Oree with his measly powers, though really, its Oree doing all the protecting. There is a scene where the priests turn against him to attack him, not knowing that he is the very god whom they worship. It's appalling and so well-written; god proposes, man disposes.

Once again, Jemisin wows you with her amazing world-building. The mythology is detailed and intricate, and even a few words on the page pull you into a new realm of imagination: the World Tree, the void, the floating city of Sky, the Shadow worlds… I am sure there are other reviewers who have done more justice to the imagery in the books.

You have got to read this series (or hear its audiobook brilliantly narrated by Casaundra Freeman)

Rating: A stupendous 10 out of 10


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January 2017



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